Tom Gilson

“Science is losing to religion – Mail & Guardian Online”

The Mail & Guardian interviewer is rather easily persuaded:

“Yes, yes, I know, I know. People say I’m shrill and strident.” Dawkins has a theory about this [writes the reporter], which is very persuasive. “We’ve all been brought up with the view that religion has some kind of special privileged status. You’re not allowed to criticise it. And therefore, if you offer even a fairly mild criticism, it really does sound strident, because it violates this expectation that religion is out of bounds.”

[Link: Science is losing to religion – Mail & Guardian Online]

Herewith, then, a few examples of Dawkins’s “fairly mild criticism:”

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.

I’ve met plenty of people who call themselves religious, but when you actually probe, when you ask them in detail what they believe, it turns out to be this very same awe and wonder that Wilson and Einstein talked about. If they’re genuinely intelligent, it does not involve the supernatural…. My suggestion is that you won’t find any intelligent person who feels the need for the supernatural.

As a Darwinian, the aspect of religion that catches my attention is its profligate wastefulness, its extravagant display of baroque uselessness…. Though the details differ across cultures, no known culture lacks some version of the time-consuming, wealth-consuming, hostility-provoking, fecundity-forfeiting rituals of religion.

And finally, when asked, “If you had to make a case for religion—one positive, if minor, thing religion has done—what would it be?” he answered,

… I really don’t think I can think of anything; I really can’t.

I guess the “very persuasive” reason all of this sounds shrill and strident is only because up until Dawkins, no one has criticized religion. (Could this erstwhile Professor for the Public Understanding of Science really be that out of touch? And the reporter, too?)

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4 thoughts on ““Science is losing to religion – Mail & Guardian Online”

  1. Yes…I don’t really understand the “atheists are a persecuted minority” line from Dawkins. It might be true for people in some areas in the US, but I’m a Brit like him, and in the UK he’s in very good company as far as the middle-class media are concerned. I mean seriously, his idea that “noone’s allowed to criticise religion” is just nonsense.

    Of course, if he’s saying that “noone’s allowed to be rude about religion”, then that’s something else entirely.

  2. “Of course, if he’s saying that “noone’s allowed to be rude about religion”, then that’s something else entirely.”

    By religion, you probably mean Islam or Sikhism. Perhaps Hinduism. Judaism is becoming fairer game for the media, and Christianity is openly ridiculed.

    Oh well. Also, for more amusement, read the comments under the Dawkins-lovein. Quite funny really.

  3. For what its worth, i see no indication in the usa that atheism is a “put-down” minority amongst college students or professors.

  4. Perhaps the most telling paragraph in the piece was the one that included Dawkins’ own observation:

    When I first started tutoring [science] in the 1960s it was a great joy to me to get enthusiastic pupils who were really keen and interested and a tutorial would be a real meeting of minds and a real conversation. That good feeling about it seemed to gradually disappear.

    Really? To what can we correlate such a diminution of interest in science? Isn’t it interesting that self-identification with religion has similarly declined since the 1960s? Could those trends be at all related, I wonder?

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